The News Desk is a collection of news, notes and breaking items affecting the Fredericksburg community.
Suspect arrested in moped accident
A city man wanted in connection with a moped crash that sent a Fredericksburg woman to the hospital has vanished, according to city police.
In the incident, which happened July 29, Thomas William Johnson suffered injuries that required a stay at the hospital.
Police made regular checks on the 42-year-old while he was at Mary Washington Hospital. But Johnson was released, and police haven’t been able to find him since.
As a result of the moped crash, Johnson faces charges of hit-and-run and driving with a revoked license, both felonies. He also faces charges of reckless driving and public intoxication.
Johnson faces a probation violation charge, too, said Natatia Bledsoe, Fredericksburg Police Department spokeswoman.
Court records show that Johnson’s criminal record includes a DUI conviction in Spotsylvania, for which his driver’s license was revoked. He also has a 2012 felony assault conviction involving his girlfriend, Melissa Gerke.
The crash happened at the Princess Anne Street crosswalk along the Rappahannock Heritage Trail, according to earlier police reports.
City police said a 21-year-old city woman and her boyfriend were in the crosswalk shortly after 7 p.m. when Johnson swerved the moped around stopped vehicles and hit the woman, knocking her to the ground.
She was taken to the hospital with a head injury and scrapes and bruises.
Police said Johnson fled the scene, leaving the moped in the street.
Police said that during the investigation, Gerke claimed that the moped was hers and that someone had stolen it.
She faces an obstruction of justice charge related to the moped incident.
Bledsoe said it was unclear whether police have had contact with her since Johnson disappeared.
The night of the crash, anonymous tips led police to Johnson, who was hiding in the backyard of the home he shared with Gerke.
Police planned to charge Johnson once he was released from the hospital.
Bledsoe said Johnson spent three days at Mary Washington Hospital.
But on the fourth day, when an officer went to check on Johnson, he “had been discharged without notification,” Bledsoe said.
She said police have made multiple visits to Johnson’s home and other places he might be. They also have talked with his family.
Anyone with information about Johnson’s whereabouts is asked to call city police at 540/373-3122.
Scott Shenk: 540/374-5436
There seem to be more mopeds on the roads these days. But not everyone can ride them legally, and some new laws went into effect July 1.
While you don’t need a license to drive a moped, you must be at least 16, according to the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.
Moped drivers also must follow the same traffic laws as those in cars.
You can’t drive a moped if you have been declared a habitual offender or have had your driver’s license suspended or revoked for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
A new state law requires moped drivers to carry a “government-issued photo ID,” which doesn’t have to be a driver’s license, according to DMV. Drivers and passengers also now have to wear helmets. If the moped doesn’t have a windshield, the driver must wear a face shield, safety glasses or goggles.
The last new law requires moped owners to register and obtain a title by July 1, 2014. Mopeds that go faster than 35 mph have to be registered as a motorcycle.
During the past five years, according to DMV, there have been 2,062 crashes involving mopeds, with 31 fatalities and 1,967 injuries.